has been used, and adverse circumstances—such as lack of friends and a harsh social code—close the door to other occupations; but to suppose that such cases account for prostitution is to misapprehend the problem. The detailed investigations of various observers and the experience of rescue societies prove that the great majority of prostitutes prefer that means of livelihood to others entailing regular work, discipline and self-control. When they really cease to prefer the life, they leave it voluntarily. Otherwise there is extreme difficulty in reclaiming even the few who will consent to try, and permanent success is only attained with a small proportion of them. The earliest attempt at reclamation met with the same result. It was carried out by the Roman empress Theodora, wife of Justinian, herself a prostitute in early life. She established a home for 500 women on the Bosporus, but after a time they could not bear the restraint; some threw themselves into the sea, and eventually the scheme was abandoned. The preference is due to several causes, of which indolence is the chief. Prostitutes are drawn mainly from the lower classes; the life offers them an escape from the toil which would otherwise be their lot. Women who present themselves to the police for inscription on the continent of Europe frequently give as their reason for embracing the life, that they do not intend to work any more. Other causes are love of excitement and dislike of restraint. The same qualities make the criminal and the wastrel. In addition, a large proportion have the sexual appetite developed in an abnormal degree. Of 3505 women interrogated by M. Buls in Brussels, 1118 admitted le goût pour l'homme. The foregoing are primary causes. External conditions which foster any of these tendencies, or destroy the self-respect and sense of modesty which are their natural antidotes, are secondary causes of prostitution. The more important are: (1) difficulty of finding employment; (2) excessively laborious and ill-paid work; (3) harsh treatment of girls at home; (4) promiscuous and indecent mode of living among the overcrowded poor; (5) the aggregation of people together in large communities and factories, whereby the young are brought into constant contact with demoralized companions; (6) the example of luxury, self-indulgence and loose manners set by the wealthier classes; (7) demoralizing literature and amusements; (8) the arts of profligate men and their agents. Alcohol is often an aid to prostitution, but it can hardly be called a cause, for the practice flourishes even more in the most abstemious than in the most drunken countries. These observations apply to the West. In Oriental countries girls are commonly born into or brought up to the trade, and in that case have no choice.
Among the ancient nations of the East, with the exception of the Jews, prostitution appears to have been connected with History. religious worship, and to have been not merely tolerated but encouraged. From the Mosaic ordinances and the narrative of the Old Testament it is clear that the separation of the Jews as the chosen people, and the maintenance of their faith, were always felt by Moses and by the later prophets to be chiefly endangered by the vicious attractions of the religious rites practised around them. The code of sexual morality laid down in the Book of Leviticus is prefaced by the injunction not to do after the doings of the land of Egypt, nor after the doings of the land of Canaan, where all the abominations forbidden to the Jews were practised; and whenever the Israelites lapsed from their faith and “went a-whoring, after strange gods,” the transgression was always associated with licentious conduct. In Egypt, Phoenicia, Assyria, Chaldea, Canaan and Persia, the worship of Isis, Moloch, Baal, Astarte, Mylitta and other deities consisted of the most extravagant sensual orgies, and the temples were merely centres of vice. In Babylon some degree of prostitution appears to have been even compulsory and imposed upon all women in honour of the goddess Mylitta. In India the ancient connexion between religion and prostitution still survives; but that is not the case in China, a most licentious country, and, considering the antiquity of its civilization, and its conservatism, we may perhaps conclude that it formed an exception in this respect among the ancient nations. Among the Jews, who stood apart from the surrounding peoples, the object of the Mosaic law was clearly go preserve the purity of the race and the religion. Prostitution in itself was not forbidden, but it was to be confined to foreign women. Jewish fathers were forbidden to turn their daughters into prostitutes (Lev. xix. 29), and the daughters of Israel were forbidden to become prostitutes (Deut. xxiii. 17), but no penalty was attached to disobedience, except in the case of a priest's daughter, who was to be burnt (Lev. xxi. 9). This distinction is significant of the attitude of Moses, because the heathen “priestesses” were nothing but prostitutes. Similarly, he forbade groves, a common adjunct of heathen temples and a convenient cover for debauchery. Again, his purpose is shown by the severe penalties imposed on adultery (death) and on unchastity in a betrothed damsel (death by stoning), as contrasted with the mild prohibition of prostitution. So long as it did not touch the race or the religion, he tolerated it; and even this degree of disapproval was not maintained, for Jephthah was the son of a harlot (Judg. xi. 1). There is abundant evidence in the Old Testament that prostitution prevailed extensively in Palestine, even in the earlier and more puritan days. The women were forbidden Jerusalem and places of worship; they infested the waysides, and there is some evidence of a distinctive dress or bearing, which was a marked feature of the trade among the Greeks and Romans. In the later period of aggrandisement that increase of licentious indulgence which Moses had foreseen took place, associated with infidelity. The people plunged into debauchery, the invariable sign of national decadence, which has always accompanied over-prosperity and security, and has always heralded national destruction. Before leaving the Jews, it may be noted as an interesting fact that the remarkable series of ordinances laid down by Moses in the interest of public health contains unmistakable recognition of venereal disease and its contagious character (Lev. xv.).
Passing on to the ancient Greeks, we find prostitution treated at Athens on a new principle. The regulations of Solon were designed to preserve public order and decency. He established houses of prostitution (dicteria), which were a state monopoly and confined to certain quarters. The dicteriades were forbidden the superior parts of the town, and were placed under various disabilities. They were compelled to wear a distinctive dress, and, so far from being connected with religion, they were not allowed to take part in religious services. These laws do not seem to have been carried out at all effectually, and were
- The number of those who do so is considerable. In Copenhagen, from 1871 to 1896, 33% of the registered prostitutes were removed from the register by marriage and by returning to their friends. Many women resort to prostitution occasionally in alternation with work.
- Neither “harlot” nor “whore” is the Anglo-Saxon for a prostitute,
for which the word is miltestre (so in Matt. xxi. 31). “Whore”
came into English from Scandinavian sources. It was not spelled
with the initial w till the beginning of the 16th century. The earlier
forms are hore or hoore. The word appears in many Teutonic languages,
Dan. hore, Swed. hora, Du. hoer, Ger. Hure. The ultimate
origin has been taken to be the root meaning “to love,” seen in
Lat. carus, dear. In its earliest usages the word means “adulterer”
or “ adulteress.” It is frequent in the early version of the Bible
in the sense of prostitute. “Harlot,” possibly, as the New English
Dictionary points out, as a less offensive word, is frequent in 16th century
The word “harlot” first appears without its present application and usually of men, in the sense of rogue, vagabond, sometimes even with no evil significance at all, much as we use “fellow.” Thus in the prologue to the Canterbury Tales, 647, where the “Somonour” is called a “gentil harlot and a kynde.” The word came from Fr. arlot, masculine, arlotte, feminine. Du Cange (Glossarium) defines med. Lat. arlotus, as Helluo, ventri deditus, and gives the Fr. arlot as an equivalent, with the meaning homo nihili, fripon, coquin. The Catholicon anglicum (1483) defines “harlott” as joculator, joculatrix, histrio, histrix, connecting the word with the wandering players, actors, jugglers, of the day. The ultimate origin of the Romanic word is unknown. Skeat connects it with the Teutonic word, which appears in Ger. kerl, Eng. “churl,” which means “man,” “fellow.” Like “bigot” (q.v.), the word has been fancifully derived from the name of a person, viz. Arletta or Arlotta, the mother of William the Conqueror (William Lambarde, 1536-1601, Perambulation of Kent, pub. 1576).